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August 21, 2012 - Laurie Barron, principal of Smokey Road Middle School in Newnan, Ga., has been named the 2013 MetLife/NASSP National Middle Level Principal of the Year.
Barron was the leading force behind the turnaround of Smokey Road Middle School. When she took over in 2004, she was the fourth principal to run the school in five years. However, by demonstrating her commitment to the success of students and staff members, she was able to tackle the rampant discipline problems, high absenteeism and low student achievement.
The award was announced Tuesday at an assembly attended by students, teachers, district staff members, and representatives from the Georgia Department of Education and the governor's office. Barron will be honored during a black-tie gala on Sept. 21 in Washington, D.C., to kick off National Principals Month.
“NASSP’s experience has taught us time and again that nothing is more challenging or essential to school improvement than changing the school’s culture,” said NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti. “With genuine concern for her students’ welfare, Laurie Barron has established at Smokey Road Middle School a model climate of what the Breaking Ranks school improvement framework requires—a personalized environment where every student is known and feels valued.”
At Smokey Road, shared leadership, data-driven decision making, and job-embedded professional development help teachers provide personalized lessons. Parents, business leaders, and other stakeholders play an active role in the success of the school. And most importantly, students receive extensive support through supplemental instruction, mentoring, behavior intervention, and recognition programs.
“With all the things we have going on in education today, we must have great instructional leaders like Dr. Barron to improve student achievement and close the achievement gap,” said State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge. “When you look at schools with the highest student achievement, you will find a great leader running the school. That’s definitely the case at Smokey Road Middle School.”
Although the turnaround process at Barron’s school took several years and a commitment from the entire community, the transformation would not have been possible without Barron’s leadership. Since 2003, absenteeism has decreased 11% and students have raised state test scores in reading and math by more than 20%. The diverse middle school, which made AYP for the last six years, was named a 2011 MetLife Foundation-NASSP Breakthrough School for being high-achieving while serving a large number of students living in poverty. It has also received distinction as a Georgia Title I Distinguished School for the past four years.
“We applaud Laurie Barron for her leadership in engaging the teachers, parents, and all stakeholders in the transformation of Smokey Road,” said Derrick Kelson, vice president, MetLife. “Her efforts empower students to fulfill their potential and create a brighter future for the community.”
Barron is the fifth school leader from Georgia to receive recognition as national principal of the year since 2008. She joins the ranks of top Georgia principals including Wesley Taylor, Sheila Kahrs, Mark Wilson and Molly Howard.
The national principal of the year search began in early 2012 as each state principals association selected its state principal of the year. From this pool of state award winners, a panel of judges selected three middle level and three high school finalists. Barron was selected as the middle level winner. The national high school winner will be named in September.
The two national award winners will each receive a grant of $5,000. Grants must be used in the school to improve learning (e.g. a special school project or professional development).
For more information about the program and winners, please visit
NASSP is the leading organization of and national voice for middle level and high school principals, assistant principals, and all school leaders from across the United States and more than 45 countries around the world. The association provides research-based professional development and resources, networking, and advocacy to build the capacity of middle level and high school leaders to continually improve student performance. Reflecting its long-standing commitment to student leadership development as well, NASSP administers the National Honor Society, National Junior Honor Society, National Elementary Honor Society, and National Association of Student Councils. For more information about NASSP, located in Reston, VA, visit

About MetLife Resources
MetLife Resources is a division of Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, a MetLife company. MetLife is a subsidiary of MetLife, Inc., a leading global provider of insurance, annuities, and employee benefit programs, serving 90 million customers. Through its subsidiaries and affiliates, MetLife holds leading market positions in the United States, Japan, Latin America, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. For more information, please visit